Boomers on the Move

By Christopher M. Leporini, REALTOR® Magazine

Wealthier and more mobile than previous generations, Baby Boomers will have more choices after retirement than previous generations, experts predict. Baby Boomers may accumulate as much as twice the total wealth that their parents have, according toa study by Lisa Keister, assistant professor of sociology at Ohio State University and author of Wealth in America: Trends in Wealth Inequality (Cambridge, 2000). To tap into this market, real estate professionals will need to understand which factors Boomers weigh when considering potential retirement spots. Retire in Style: 50 Affordable Places Across America ($22.95, Next Decade, Inc. 2001) by Warren R. Bland, Ph.D. guides readers across 10 regions and 23 states to search out affordable, retiree-friendly communities in the country.

The author, a geography professor at California State University, Northridge, drew on his own travel experiences, as well as research from city and county agencies in writing the book. He judges each community on a series of criteria: landscape, climate, quality of life, cost of living, transportation, retail services, health care, community services, cultural and educational activities, recreational activities, work and volunteer activities, and crime rates and public safety. For each category, the author assigns a rating on a scale of one (poor) to five (excellent). The book then combines the ratings for each category to create a city’s overall score.

Some of the categories are grounded in statistics; for example the cost of living rating uses information from ACCRA (American Chambers of Commerce Research Association) Cost of Living index and supplemental information from city and county agencies. Other criteria, for example, quality of life considers such factors as noise pollution, traffic pollution, and the general friendliness of a city’s population, leaving them more open to interpretation. The author also notes that since the relative importance of individual categories will differ for each reader, individual category scores may be more important than cumulative ones. For instance, Boulder, Colo., received the highest overall score of the 50 communities evaluated in the book, but its cold winters and high cost of living might not be for everyone. Other top communities included such diverse locations as Portland, Oregon; Asheville, North Carolina; Austin, Texas; and San Antonio, Texas.

Retire in Style is broken into three sections. The first is an introduction that describes the criteria used to choose the top cities, a map of the top 50 places, and a reference chart that lists individual ratings for each community by category. The second section consists of descriptions of each community, including a brief explanation for its rating in each category, a breakdown of its climate throughout the year, and a map. The final section gives readers additional resources, including contact information for local chambers of commerce and visitors’ bureaus, as well as addresses to request information about climate, cost of living, crime, and health care in each community.

If you’re lucky enough to live in one of the top 50 communities, then you probably already know that your city appeals to retirees. But even if your community is not one of the chosen few, you might be able to find towns in or near your market that offer similarly attractive climate and cost of living. If so, you might be sitting on an untapped retiree market. Using what you’ve learned about retirees values, you can devise a marketing strategy to appeal to these buyers. Retire in Style can let you zero in on what retiring Baby Boomers want and recognize if you are overlooking a great marketing opportunity in your own backyard.

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This post was contributed exclusively for REALTOR® Magazine.

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